The Cannon-Firing Tradition During Ramadan

This being my fourth Ramadan in the United Arab Emirates and not being able to witness the cannons fire at dusk, which is a major part of the country’s culture and tradition, is a shame.  Sure, we’d seen it on T.V., but the fact that this is happening just fifteen minutes of drive away from where we live should actually encourage us to get ourselves out there and be part of this old tradition.  Yet three Ramadans had passed and we sat home and watched this event on T.V. at iftar.

So this Ramadan – just a couple of days ago – Masood and I decided to go to Al Noor masjid in Sharjah to witness the cannon firing ourselves.  Who knows where we’ll be next Ramadan.   We don’t even know if we’d still be alive next Ramadan.  Anyway, so we reached the masjid around 6:30 pm (iftar is at 6:50 pm) and saw no cannon in sight!  We looked around and discovered a huge tent nearby.  On closer inspection, it turned out to be a place where free food was being distributed for iftar.  Regardless of how tempting it was to get a box for ourselves, the endless queue discouraged us.

However, just as we turned towards the masjid, we saw a police jeep pull up next to the masjid.  And there was a cannon in tow!  I was grinning like I’d never seen a cannon in my life before.  At first I hesitated to take pictures because a) no one else was taking photographs that time, and b) perhaps it was illegal to photograph policemen.  I’m shy like that.  But two minutes later,  a woman walked up to one of the police officers and asked whether if was okay to take pictures, and they said, “Yes.”  So her husband stood right next to the cannon and she took pictures.  I need to be brave like her!

We sat on the nearby grass and watched (and waited).  People started to gather around the cannon, including a man with three children.  He appeared to be explaining to the kids what the cannon is all about.

And few minutes later, the cannon was fired.  “The noise is deafening!”, Masood told me when it was over, but I was too engrossed to capture it on my point and shoot camera to notice.  The fire was immediately followed by the adhan.  We ate the dates we brought with us and drank water before proceeding to offer maghrib prayers.

In the masjid, there were sweets and huge plates of biryani, but we had other things planned and, therefore, left right after prayers.

A little bit of history about this tradition here.



  1. Looks like this happens all across the GCC countries … I remember watching the same thing in Kuwait last year during Ramadan with dad …

  2. It’s interesting to see how different muslim cultures practice the important days in their life.I do know that rifle firing is one way of showing happiness in the gulf,right? Just wished that weapons are not used this way.Just the other day,saw a short documentary showing how Chinese muslims break their fast with the big bang of the bell.

    I still like the simple calling of the Adhan.It speaks more volume than everything put together.

    1. Lat, I’ve heard about the rifle firing a long time ago, but never actually saw it nor read about it in the news. But back home in Pakistan, it is still common unfortunately (specially during weddings where innocent people get hurt too).

      The cannon firing here in the U.A.E. is specifically carried out by the police force and everyone’s safety is seriously taken into consideration. Besides, all this Ramadan cannon does is create noise and nothing else 🙂 This tradition dates back when there weren’t loud speakers so the adhan couldn’t be heard by all, hence the need to fire the cannon to signal everyone. Of course, cannons aren’t needed today, but the locals just want to keep the tradition alive.

  3. Yes nadia baji there were a lot of people of various nationalities….it was truly amazing experience because most of my life i have lived in India….Its really nice that the GCC countries still keep this tradiotion alive … I am with you on the Pakistan thing (gun firing during wedding) i know about it have a pakistani father and indian mother…I think it should be stopped.

  4. Wow! This is a totally different experience! We don’t have such event here in Malaysia. Judging from the short clip on the canon firing, I am sure it’s pretty loud my heart would stop beating instantly! 😀

    Four years now in the U.A.E…. Out of curiosity, what language do you use to communicate with the locals? Plus, I thought that women are not allowed to work in the Arab countries? My neighbour just moved to Jubail (I need to go check the map and see exact location, for my knowledge in geography is very poor!) and she told me women are not allowed to drive or go to mosque at her place. Hmmm…interesting…

    1. Atie, though I definitely heard the sound, I didn’t really notice how loud it was since I was busy documenting the event 😀 But Masood thinks it was very loud.

      We use English or Urdu/Hindi to communicate with the locals. It seems like all Emaratis have been taught Urdu/Hindi in school 😀

      Jubail is in Saudi Arabia, a country where women are not allowed to drive by law. But I’m not sure about women not allowed to go to mosques.

      In the U.A.E., specifically Dubai, both men and women can do anything (almost!) including walking on the beach in teeny tiny swim wear and drink alcohol in bars and five-star hotels (unfortunately … I believe this should be stopped). And yeah, women are definitely allowed to work, drive, do business transactions and travel on their own. We even have our own women Emarati pilots now 🙂

  5. Well at least those nearby will have no doubt as to the time of iftar! I never heard of this when I was there … I think Dubai is a bit boring compared to Sharjah when it comes to canons! 😛

    1. Mezba, I haven’t heard about cannons in Dubai, but Sharjah organizes this event every year in several locations across the emirate. I suppose Dubai is busy with other things.

  6. I was wondering how did you design that slightly rounded border in the photo? I’m new to photoshop or this photo editing stuff so I’m worried. Could you tell me about this?

    1. Sajib, I don’t use Photoshop to edit my pictures (yet). To make the borders round, I used an online photo editor called Picnik.

      PS: If you get around using Photoshop, please post a step-by-step tutorial on your blog for me 🙂

      1. Oh yea, I know Picnik. But it is a heavyweight application and my limited bandwidth won’t allow me to use such heavy application online.

        Lately I’ve been learning Photoshop following tutorials available on the Internet. Improvement is slow yet steady 😀 Sure I can post a step-by-step tutorial for you. But tutorial of what? Making slightly rounded border?

  7. Sajib, at least you are making some improvement 🙂 I was planning on downloading those free action sets and just work around it, but some say you’ll get used to it and won’t learn how to edit on your own. Anyway, I am really interested on how to watermark my photographs in an pretty way … something like how this lady has water-marked hers.

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